Aftera rather disappointing day in Penang yesterday, we woke up early today to set off on our next island destination: Langkawi.
After a rushed breakfast, we hired a taxi and headed to the terminal to board our ferry to Langkawi. We bought our tickets yesterday itself, and its advisable to do so; our boat was full.
It's air-conditioned inside and there's a "first class" upstairs as well
The ferry leaves at 8:15am every morning
Soon after the ferry set off, we decided to get up from our seats and go 'upstairs'...
... and then outside. The mushroom cloud from yesterday was still there.
Goodbye Penang, until next time
On one side it was clear sunny skies...
...on the other, dark clouds with some pockets of rain
In this wide panorama shot, you can see the pockets receiving rainfall in the distance
There were some lovely cloud formations along the way
The fumes are coming from the ferry
With a cool breeze, calm waters, and sunshine...
... it's perfect for a nap
It was cool to see rainfall like this
I wasn't the only one on board donning our company t-shirts (Photograph by Loiyumba)
By 10:30am, we were nearing Langkawi
The water was getting clearer
At this point, we were asked to go back to our seats
This was our ferry (Taken using my phone camera)
Hello Langkawi! (Taken on the Nokia E72)
(Taken on the Nokia E72)
(Taken on the Nokia E72)
Plenty of yachts out here (Taken on the Nokia E72)
We hired a taxi to get to our hotel, which was on Pantai Cenang beach. (Cost us RM24)
There is a pre-paid taxi booth outside the terminal
The main town in Langkawi is Kuah (Photograph by Loiyumba)
By the way, if you wondering where the iconic symbol of Langkawi (the eagle statue) is, you can find it near a park very close to the ferry terminal. We passed it while driving out of the terminal but didn’t bother stopping to take photos… as there isn’t much to it.
The drive takes around half an hour
We were quite happy to see all this
By 11:30 we were at Pantai Cenang
We could see a sign on the main road pointing to Sweet Inn Motel, the place where we had reservations. Problem is, the sign was pointing to the left side, into the mainland and not to the right, where the beach was.
We were a *bit* disappointed upon seeing the place
This I'm guessing is the motel owner's house (Photograph by Loiyumba)
When we made the booking via Agoda.com in August, the description read “on Pantai Cenang beach,” and though it is only a 2 minute walk away from the beach, it’s not a sea facing hotel. Oh well, at least it was cheap. Our triple room cost us Rs. 2360 ($52/€37) for two nights — that’s under Rs. 800 per person for 2 nights!
The rooms were also quite decent. The triple room was one double bed and a single bed, a TV with mostly local channels, wardrobe and a clean enough toilet with hot shower.
We couldn’t check in yet because our rooms weren’t cleaned and kept ready. So instead, we dumped our bags in the office room and hit the beach.
Is there any beach on the planet that doesn't have a Jamaica-themed bar?
Langkawi's most popular beach -- Pantai Cenang beach (panorama comprised of 15 shots)
We couldn’t hand around for too long at the beach. We needed to convert currency as we were running short of Malaysian Ringgits. Loi wanted to sit at the bar, so myself & Ramesh headed back to the main road in search of a money exchange.
Langgura Baron resort is more 'motel' than 'resort'. Reasonable rates & by the sea.
When we first came across a money exchange center, they were closed for lunch. We had to walk quite a bit before we came across one that was open. There really weren’t that many money exchange centers on Pantai Cenang road. Not as ubiquitous as I noticed in Thailand. My advice is to convert money either prior to landing in Langkawi or outside the ferry terminal if you come by boat.
Money in hand, we headed back to the beach.
Judging by the flags, Indians and Arabs form a large chunk of the tourists in Langkawi
Villa Idaman Motel, I couldn't find their official site so you'll just have to Google for more info
Despite being Langkawi's most popular beach, it wasn't very crowded
Air Asia has plenty of daily flights to Langkawi
Not sure if this hotel was open yet
Melati Tanjung Motel, this another budget sea-facing option
The usual watersports are on offer
Lovely 'sand art' by beach snails (I presume)...
... and the shore line had lots of them!
A dead jellyfish. Felt like poking it with my fingers... but didn't.
Inside Babylon bar
After having a beer to cool ourselves, we went back to Sweet Inn to check in to our rooms.
Take the left road to get to Sweet Inn motel
After we checked in, we freshened up and then stepped out again for lunch.
I had Nasi Lemak, pretty much the Malay-equivalent to India's 'meals'
Considered to be the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak consists of some rice, roasted peanuts, papadam bits, small dried anchovies, boiled egg and and sambal, a spicy sauce (in the above photo, it’s the red one with calamari in it). The meal is filling and is usually very reasonably priced.
Ramesh had the one on the left; Loi had the one on the right
After lunch, instead of taking a nap, we decided to rent bikes and head to the Langkawi Sky Bridge while the sun was still up.
We rented 2 scooters at RM22 (Rs. 325/$7/€5) each for 24hrs.
The bikes that were the most common were Modenas. This model is called the Karisma.
The rental shop made a note of all the pre-existing scratches and damages before handing it over to us.
It’s best you inspect the bike as carefully as possible, so that they cannot point at any scratch or damage on the bike claiming you did that when you return it.
Helmets on, we set off. Ramesh rode solo while I rode with Loi sitting behind me.
Photograph by Loiyumba
Photograph by Loiyumba
Photograph by Loiyumba
We stopped to fuel up. Filled up petrol for RM8 (Rs. 118). (These are self service stations by the way)
Quite a scenic drive
... and it kept getting better
This is one end of the Langkawi International Airport runway
This is the route we took. 'B' is Pantai Cenang beach and 'A' is the Langkawi Sky Bridge.
We had to stop to take a few photos. (Yes, I was aware of how big the helmet was on my head)
Panorama comprised of 3 shots
He's fishing... not anything else
We moved ahead and then stopped again. I don't remember why though.
Ramesh ridin' solo
We stopped here on the bridge to take a few photos.
We moved on.
You reach a T-junction, from where you'll see this fruit stall. Take the right.
Then, up ahead is a signal. From the signal, you have to take a left turn.
You'll pass the Langkawi Yacht Club
The road to the sky bridge goes all around the marina
After setting off at 2pm, by 4pm we were at the Langkawi Geopark. It’s not that the journey takes that long, we just stopped on the way quite a bit.
There's ample parking available for cars & bikes
There are stores and restaurants below
You buy the tickets from here
Tickets cost RM30 per adult (Rs. 440/$10/€7)
There are few mini-waterfalls here
This is the first station, there's another leg to the trip to the top
The view is amazing even at half-way point
That's the sky bridge
Panorama comprised of 10 vertical shots
We got into the cable car and continued up.
Once you get to the second platform, you have to take these steps to get down to the sky bridge
That's how high the sky bridge is above sea level
By the way, there are gaps in between the platform you walk on
Apparently the final scene of the Hindi film Don (starring Shah Rukh Khan) was filmed on the sky bridge. I didn’t see the film, but that’s what Ramesh & Loi said.
There were steps leading under the platform. Being curious, I took it.
Apparently you can trek all the way down too. But you need prior permission.
Walked a few steps down and saw this. So went back up again.
That's the second highest observation deck
That's the marina of the Langkawi Yacht Club
This observation deck was closed for maintenance
So we went to the other observation deck
Me showing Loi where we were staying (Photograph by Ramesh)
The first wing of the beach you see in the distance is Pantai Cenang. The one further up is Pantai Tengah.
If you want a video of the sky bridge, watch this HD capture by Ramesh:
The sun was setting, so we decided to head back down.
Ramesh took video of our journey back down:
(You can view it in HD for better clarity)
Once down, we checked out the Oriental Village.
The Oriental Village mostly comprises of shops, restaurants and other services like massage spas. We were a bit hungry so we sat in a cafe to have something to eat.
This is what I had: Roselle flower juice (L) & beef burger (R)
It was was past 6pm, which is also closing time for the cable car ride. We wanted to make the most of whatever sunlight was available while heading back. So we set off…
...buuut we ended up stopping again near the Langkawi Yacht Club
A beautiful evening to close out a lovely first day in Langkawi
There's a Petronas gas station near the yacht club
Yes, me and my big helmet (Photograph by Ramesh)
As darkness fell, we still managed to get back to Pantai Cenang beach road in around 45 minutes. Instead of heading back to our rooms, we decided to make the most of the bikes while we had them. We drove straight, on to Pantai Tengah beach and past it as well, until we hit a dead end which looked like another docking bay for boats.
So we made our way back and decided to return the bikes tonight itself.
This is the place where we rented our bikes from
The reason why we returned them is because the next morning we had booked ourselves for an island-hopping tour which would last until afternoon. So by the time we would have gotten back to our rooms, it would have been past the 24-hour limit.
For our early dinner, we went to this restaurant which had a sizable crowd
It's lovely place and isn't that expensive
(I kinda wanted to try it though)
But Loi & I ended up ordering this interesting looking butter pan-fried tiger prawns
We had a large plate of fries, some beers, and some pasta; all of which came to around RM44 (Rs. 650).
For dessert, and in my quest to try out new things, I had Kit Kat ice cream. It was okay.
With that, day one in Langkawi came to a close! We had woken up early in Penang today morning and tomorrow, we had to wake up early again for our pick up for the island-hopping tour.
Organized by Gigbox, a relatively new player in the concert scene, the Led Zepplica concert was held at the UB City amphitheatre last month. I figured I’ll never see Led Zeppelin live in concert so what the heck, might as well see a tribute band. Got to love the name: Led Zeppelin + replica = Led Zepplica!
There were two opening acts before Led Zepplica hit the stage. First up, a young Bangalore-based band called Fahrenheit.
Fahrenheit take the stage
They mostly played their own original compositions...
... & they were quite good
Next up was this frustrated dude and his band
The band was called rajeev's Wolfpack -- and they mostly played U2 covers
The lead vocalist did forget some of the words, but they get props from me for playing U2′s older hits such as “I Will Follow” & “‘Bullet the Blue Sky” before moving to more recent fare like “Vertigo“. I was happy to hear those songs but to keep the masses awake, they had to play the pub-staple “With or Without You“.
As it neared 8:30pm, Led Zepplica took to the stage.
They kicked things off with "Rock 'n' Roll"
Here’s a video of some of the first few songs Led Zepplica performed:
On lead guitars, Lenny Mann, playing the role of legendary Jimmy Page
Bassist Johnny Bruhns, playing Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones
And finally, playing the role of the late great John Bonham, Daryl Johnson on drums
Here are some more videos:
“Dazed & Confused”
John Bonham’s greatest moment — “Moby Dick”
“Stairway to Heaven”
Their encore performance included:
“Whole Lotta Love”
... and with that, the show came to an end
Though the gig was 2 hours long, Led Zepplica still didn’t play classics like “Since I’ve Been Loving You” or my favourite, “Trampled Under Foot”. But I figured it’s not possible to cram every Led Zep classic in a standard 2 hour show. Their catalogue of great rock requires at least half a day!
Led Zeppelin are the greatest hard rock band of all time. A band who were way ahead of their time — and legends in the world of rock. They broke up soon after John Bonham died and though Robert Plant & Jimmy Page did make music as a duo and even released an Unplugged album, the band never toured as Led Zeppelin for 19 years until 2007. That year, all three living members, along with John Bonham’s son Jason Bonham, got together for their reunion gig at London’s O2 Arena to pay tribute to Atlantic Records’ founder Ahmet Ertegun.
Since that show, there were persistent rumours of Led Zeppelin doing a world tour but rumours about Robert Plant’s unwillingness to do so, shot down the chances of that happening. So for me, seeing a decent tribute band was the next best thing.
[Regular visitors please note: This post is my entry to the Indiblogger/Cleartrip contest; the full day-by-day report of this Thailand trip will appear after I'm done with my Malaysia posts]
I arrived in Thailand after I got a great deal from Cleartrip last November for the Bangalore – Bangkok route: Thai Airways return flight + Rs. 1500 hotel voucher + Rs. 500 preloaded Thai SIM + entry to DreamWorld theme park — all for Rs. 16,472.
After buying a bunch of camera equipment from Bangkok, I arrived in the historical city of Chiang Mai two days later.
What was my purpose of landing up in Chiang Mai? Firstly, I love this city. The word I often use to describe Chiang Mai is ‘charming’. But the main reason why I was here in November 2010, was to witness the Thai festival of Loy Krathong, more popularly called Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai.
I always wanted to witness the festival as just seeing the photographs and videos lead me to think this is such a beautiful festival to experience first hand! Loy Krathong is the Thai equivalent to Diwali. You could say it’s Thailand’s ‘festival of lights’. I chose the dates based on information I gathered online, but even after arriving here and asking the hotel staff, I still couldn’t get any concrete information on the schedule of events.
Regardless, for day 1 in Chiang Mai I went around town to find out more about the days ahead and more importantly, where the big release of lanterns was going to be held.
They already had floats on the waters surrounding Thapai Gate
The last time I was Chiang Mai, I drove up Doi Suthep hill, to visit the temple perched atop. I didn’t want to go all the way up this time, but I still wanted to drive up the hill to a certain point.
The ride up Doi Suthep is enjoyed by many — tourists and locals alike.
Be it cyclists or tourists on superbikes, everybody enjoys the ride
Along the way, one can stop to see the many mini-waterfalls on Doi Suthep
But my stopping point was the last viewing point before you reach the top of the hill.
From here, you get a very good view of Chiang Mai city...
... which looks particularly lovely under a full moon night
Loi Krathong celebrations begin on a full moon night (Shot this with the telephoto lens)
The sun sets rather quickly in Chiang Mai
As darkness fell, I made my back down and back into town.
Such ornate lanterns were put up near Thapae Gate
Though celebrations hadn’t officially begun, people had still gathered around Ping River.
Some couldn't wait to light fireworks
Others couldn't wait to light paper lanterns
All the bridges across Ping River were packed with people
The nearby market was lit up with goods for the festival
These are 'krathongs'
All varieties of flowers too
I got a taste of what was to come the next few days.
After learning how to make Thai Green curry at the cooking class I attended in the day, I set off for Mae Jo in the evening. One of the staff at the cooking class told me the massive release of lanterns would be from here.
Ever since I saw photos of the festival, I made it a point that I would witness it myself. So by 5pm, I hired a Tuk Tuk as I didn’t really know how to get to the grounds at Mae Jo.
The traffic was starting to pile up
It's probably wiser to just come by bike as the roads only get narrower towards the grounds
By the time, I finally got in, it was 7pm
It was pitch dark inside and virtually no street lights anywhere. When I had spoken to the staff earlier in the day, he told there would around 20,000 people at the venue. Judging by the traffic and the scores of people in front of me, I believe him!
There were plenty of lanterns being released into the sky. I hope I wasn't too late.
After walking further in for around 10 minutes, I stopped at a crowded section where hundreds of people were lighting lanterns and releasing them into the sky.
I knew I was there to find the site where thousands of lanterns were going to be released at the same time but I couldn’t help but get distracted. It’s such a beautiful sight and a lot of fun to see people attempt to make these lanterns fly.
It's not as easy as you think it is
Not all get it right
And for some, this festival can burn their house down!
Half an later of observing people and staring into the full moon night, suddenly, I hear screams.
I turn around, and couldn’t believe my eyes…
I can't believe I missed the big release!
I ran, but so did several others! I tried to squeeze through the crowds to try and get a good shot but alas, to no avail. There were just too many people… disappointed, just like me
I was gutted.
The one moment I was hoping to see up close for months… and I couldn’t be in the middle of it all.
One of the very few good photographs I managed to click in focus
The grounds from where the actual release was happening was still further away. By the time I finally managed to get in, it was all over.
THIS is where it happens
Words can’t describe how gutted I was in knowing I was ‘so near, yet so far’ from being there at that moment. I could have consoled myself by saying “Oh well, hundreds of others missed it too…” but it couldn’t cheer me up any which way.
I went back to Chiang Mai city disappointed.
Bridges across Ping River were all lit up
I was in no mood to party that night.
After yesterday’s disappointment, I wasn’t even in the mood to step out during the day. I was also feeling a bit feverish as the return journey in the tuk tuk was chilly– and I was woefully ‘under-dressed’ yesterday night.
I finally stepped out by around 4pm and hoped for something today to make up for yesterday’s ‘loss’.
Plenty of stalls at Thapai Gate selling all sorts of stuff...
... and of course, great food at very reasonable prices!
Thapai gate had plenty of colourful lanterns on display. (That's me by the way!)
And yes, there were events lined up that did bring a smile back on to my face.
A massive parade was lined up for the evening -- today and tomorrow
Even the foreign embassies took part
These poor folks had to carry & walk with that dancer for nearly 2 hours!
Hundreds of locals thronged to the banks of the Ping river to release krathongs into the water.
The krathongs are biodegradable
The release of the krathongs into the river is a symbolic act of letting go of one’s grudges, anger and any past bad moments, and hope one can start afresh in life.
All the Buddhist temples were abuzz with activity and many turned into food courts, offering all sorts of delicacies.
... some not too appetizing
Even the temple monks were in on the 'big' fun
Plenty of fireworks
Plenty of street entertainment
With all that was happening around me, for a moment, I forgot about yesterday’s disappointment and just enjoyed what was on offer today.
After this, I put my camera down and decided to join the other tourists in lighting a few lanterns myself
Loy Krathong is an amazing festival. Though its celebrated across Thailand, Chiang Mai throws the biggest ‘party’ of them all. I waited months and invested quite a lot in photography equipment for this visit, and although I extremely disappointed on missing being at the site where the big release of lanterns took place, I told myself: “I’ll be back next year”